Raise your hand if you ever sat at a meeting tired, bored, and thinking “This should have been an email”.   We’ve all been there.  Meetings that run longer than scheduled, the work pilling up while we are sitting there, and the pressure of rushing to yet another meeting, can all contribute to high levels of stress.

While meetings can be valuable for creating synergy and accessing everyone’s knowledge, they come with a hidden cost.  Too many meetings displace time that could be spent on important tasks and can negatively impact productivity.

In fact, a study made by Atlassian found that on average, an employee spends 31 hours per month in unproductive meetings, with 91% of the respondents admitting to daydreaming during meetings.    This is an experience my coaching clients also share with me.

This is why it is so important to highlight the need for organizations to be more intentional about their meetings and to ensure that they are productive and engaging for employees.

So, how can we achieve this?   Let me share with you some tips to make your meetings more productive

1. Reduce the frequency.

One effective way to make meetings more productive is to re-evaluate the frequency of recurrent meetings.  Are they truly necessary, or can they be replaced with less regular meetings?  A client of mine asked himself this question.  He became the leader of a team that was used to having update meetings once a week.  However, after careful consideration, it became clear that this “inherited recurring meeting” was not necessary.   By reducing the frequency of this meeting to once a month, he made sure his team members had more free time to work on other important tasks.

2. Evaluate the channel 

Instead of a meeting could it happen in a different way?  Sometimes it is not necessary to have a meeting.  Could it be a video? Or An email?   This could be an alternative setting especially if you are providing updates to people, and it becomes a one-way communication meeting also known as a static meeting.

On the contrary, if you need brainstorming, briefing or debriefing a project, where you need other people’s input then a meeting will be the ideal setting.

3. Limit the guestlist

Meetings can be costly, as they require valuable time from people involved (minutes of your time vs salary).  The longer the meeting and the more people involved, the higher the cost.  This not only affects the time spent in the meeting but also the opportunity cost of not being able to work on other important tasks.

This is why it is so important to prioritize and evaluate which meetings are necessary and which attendees are required.  As a leader, you can consider inviting specific individuals for certain parts of a meeting or requesting their input beforehand, in order to minimize unnecessary attendance and make meetings more efficient.    Ultimately, by being mindful of attendees and the meeting’s purpose, you can make the most of everyone’s time

4. Send the agenda in advance for productive meetings

Another important step to conducting a productive meeting is to send the agenda in advance.  By doing this, you allow everyone to come to the meeting with a clear understanding of the topics to be discussed and the goals of the meeting. It gives participants the opportunity to prepare their thoughts and any necessary materials in advance, ensuring that the meeting is more efficient.   Additionally, sharing the agenda allows attendees to determine if their presence is required for the entire duration of the meeting or if they can provide input for a specific portion of the agenda.

send the agenda in advance for a productive meeting

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist

5. Shorten the meeting

Constraints can be a powerful force to help us stay focused.  By aiming to reduce meetings by just 10 or 15 minutes, we can create enough time to accomplish other important tasks.  This can be especially beneficial for ensuring that we’re not left playing catch-up after work.  When meetings run longer than expected, it can quickly eat into valuable time that we need to complete other work. 

A small thing we can do to be more mindful of the time is to have visible clocks in the meeting room to help everyone to stay aware of the time.

6. Appoint an agenda keeper

If having visible clocks is not helping shorten your meetings, consider appointing an agenda or timekeeper to help facilitate a productive meeting.    This person can be appointed at the start of the meeting and given the authority to redirect conversations that go off topic, and to ensure that each item of the agenda is allocated the appropriate amount of time. The agenda or timekeeper has the responsibility to keep the meeting running smoothly and make sure that it finishes on time.  By publicly empowering this person to manage the meeting, attendees will be more likely to adhere to the allotted time frames and stay on track.

7. Summarize and review action items.

At the end of the meeting, summarize the key takeaways and review any action items that need to be addressed.  This can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands what is expected of them moving forward.  Following up after the meeting to ensure that action items are being addressed can help ensure that the meeting was truly productive and that progress is being made.

Do you have more tips to conduct productive meetings that help you achieve your goals and objectives while respecting everyone’s time and energy?  Please share them in the comments below.